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- Measurement of tank level, particularly for cryogenic propellants, has proven to be a difficult problem. Current methods based on differential pressure, capacitance sensors, temperature sensors, etc.; do not provide sufficiently accurate or robust measurements, especially at run time. These methods are designed to measure tank-level, but when the fluids are in supercritical state, the liquid-gas interface disappears. Furthermore, there is a need for a non-intrusive measurement system; that is, the sensors should not require tank modifications and/or disturb the fluids. This paper describes a simple, but effective method to determine propellant mass by measuring very small deformations of the structure supporting the tank. Results of a laboratory study to validate the method, and experimental data from a deployed system are presented. A comparison with an existing differential pressure sensor shows that the strain gage system provides a much better quality signal across all regimes during an engine test. Experimental results also show that the use of fiber optic strain gages (FOSG) over classic foil strain gages extends the operation time (before the system becomes uncalibrated), and increases accuracy. Finally, a procedure is defined whereby measurements from the FOSG mounted on the tank supporting structure are compensated using measurements of a FOSG mounted on a reference plate and temperature measurements of the structure. Results describing the performance of a deployed system that measures tank level during propulsion tests are included.
- Document ID: 20040050782.
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